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A Press Release By The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG)

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A press release issued by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG).

A Press Release By The NESG

MATTERS OF URGENT ATTENTION

1. The Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) notes that since the inception
of this Administration, Agriculture and the need to ensure Zero Hunger for Nigerians
has received considerable attention. However, despite the budgetary allocations
and huge sums of money disbursed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, a huge gap remains in meeting the
food requirements, which has resulted in increasing hunger among the Nigerian
populace. Evidently, the issues are beyond money and therefore, require a
complete overhaul of the management of, and support for the Agriculture sector
and all related sectors – with a view to getting more value for our investments.

2. The NESG expresses its concern about the high level of insecurity across the
country and its impact on the business environment and investment flows,
which has contributed massively to the current food crisis, unemployment,
poverty, increasing community clashes, rising bloodshed and the absence of
peace and tranquillity in the land. Therefore, we again join the call by all
well-meaning Nigerians, for Government to critically re-evaluate our security
architecture and take all necessary actions to assure and safeguard the safety of
all Nigerian citizens and residents.

3. The NESG acknowledges the expected far-reaching positive impact of the
recently enacted Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020 on businesses
especially the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) if well implemented.
However, we have noted the issues being raised by some stakeholders about
the provisions of certain sections of the Act, and urge all concerned to follow due
process in seeking review and then be given fair hearing such that the many
proactive provisions in the law that would facilitate the ease of doing business,
provide efficient corporate structures and a stable / certain business climate are
not drowned out but are well communicated, optimised and implemented.

4. The NESG notes the Nation’s huge exposure to the vagaries of oil price fluctuations
and emphasizes the need for a better structured and effective diversification
of the economy. However, the NESG is not oblivious to the continuing crucial
role of the Oil and Gas sector in our economy. Accordingly, we applaud the work
now being done by the Presidency to see to the quick passage of the Petroleum
industry Bill (PIB), and urge further stakeholder consultations so that the
resultant law will create the required enabling environment for investment flows,
reserves enhancement, technology transfer and utilization efficiency.

5. The NESG notes the evolving developmental roles of central banks around
the world especially as it concerns resource allocations. However, such allocative
roles must be undertaken in a very open, transparent and fair manner. The
Group expresses serious concerns about how the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
has carried on the business of foreign exchange transactions, loan disbursements
(intervention funds) and price fixings without appropriate policy clarity.
This can be subject to abuses, manipulations and significant market disruptions,
reflective of a policy akin to crony capitalism. We therefore respectfully request
the appropriate authorities to properly review this policy to restore credibility
into our financial sector.

6. The NESG has expressed severe concerns about certain provisions of the
‘repealed and re-enacted’ Bank and Other Financial Institutions Act 2020; recently
passed by both houses of the National Assembly, and in the process of being
transmitted to the President for assent. The Bill contains certain provisions which
breach the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, confers immunity on CBN
officials and exempts actions by the CBN from judicial review. These are draconian,
totalitarian and inimical to the development of a stable and transparently
regulated financial sector. We respectfully request that the President should
please withhold his assent until the Bill is properly reviewed, amended and is
made fit for purpose. We also most respectfully request that our legislative
houses should subject all Bills, in particular, such crucial bills, to the most efficient
scrutiny necessary to assure compliance with the Nigerian Constitution, transparency,
good governance and the best interest of the people of Nigeria.

7. The NESG observes with concern some distortions in the liquidity and
interest rate management of our financial system which has resulted in rate
distortions causing grave disadvantage to domestic investors and pensioners.
This will occasion major disincentives to savings and investments and thereby, be
a disadvantage to Nigerian pensioners and long term savers. This is inimical to
this administration’s concern for the elderly, the weak, the infirmed and those
who had served this Country meritoriously in their prime. It must be stressed that
our country needs to mobilise domestic savings and investments even as we seek
to attract foreign investment and we should be careful not to initiate policies that appear to discriminate against or discourage domestic savings and investors.
Policies making average Nigerians poorer by the day should not be encouraged.

8. The NESG commends Government’s efforts on infrastructural developments
across the country and respectfully advises that given the enormity of financial
resources required to meet our largely decayed infrastructural stock, many more
options should be explored to attract private sector capital and involvement. However,
such options and alternatives must always be subject to clear rules, open, transparent,
following due process, and the enshrinement of the sanctity of contracts.

9. The Group acknowledges government efforts at reopening the eastern port and
urges that the rail link between Onne and Port Harcourt, should be given urgent
attention so as to avoid replicating the Apapa Port experience. In the same light we
wish to call for urgent solutions to the Apapa Port congestion, and other difficulties
in effecting prompt and efficient export and import of goods. The Seaport is an
economic lifeline critical for the diversification of the Nigerian economy.

10. The NESG commends government’s actions at deregulating fuel and electricity
prices and urge that proper policies, processes and procedures be put in place, to
ensure that all the reforms (beyond price deregulation) necessary to facilitate the
smooth functioning of both the fuel and electricity markets are effectively and
conclusively implemented. Adequate communication to stakeholders and the general
public on the benefits derivable from these actions must also be regularly carried
out.

11. The NESG urges the Federal Government to expedite actions at re-opening our
closed borders given its negative impact on trade and employment. It must be noted
that our work in ECOWAS should not be limited to security and diplomacy, but must
also effectively harness trade opportunities within the sub-region. We also call on
the government to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), so
that we can move to full membership status and take our rightful place in subsequent
negotiation rounds. We remain of the firm belief that with the necessary
infrastructure, Nigerian economy and the Nigerian people, with our innovative
capacity, hard work and creativity, will be one of the greatest beneficiaries of African
and West African free trade. This will also enable fair competition, competent institutions, efficiency and transparency in our processes.

12. The NESG notes with grave concern the rising level of poverty, unemployment
and underemployment in our country which is predominant among our young
people and has been exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19 and the slump in
commodity prices. We urge that while efforts at creating short-term jobs across the
country is commendable, a lot more effort must be channelled towards re-skilling,
retooling and reviewing our school curriculum. A focused approach to vocational
studies must also be undertaken, and all our 13.2M children (Pre COVID-19) out of
school must be brought into the school system.

13. We note the nation’s resort to borrowing (either domestic or international), and
quantitative easing by the monetary authorities to fund the large deficit which has
now been made worse by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since these specific
actions are not sustainable in the medium to long term, the Group urges government
to urgently, consider a strong communicating strategy that engages the people
and prepares them for tougher times ahead whilst the current reforms take effect.
The current business as usual disposition is not sustainable.

14. The NESG notes the frequent expression by government to work with the
private sector in nation building efforts, but observes that a lot more work needs to
be done on both sides to obtain the best benefits of such collaboration. It is therefore
important that concrete steps must be taken to address the mutual distrust and
build institutions that work regardless of persons.

15. In consonance with our strong commitment to partner with government in
ensuring an appropriate, efficient and transparent environment for doing business
in our country, the NESG pledges its commitment and the commitment of its other
private sector counterparts to work effectively and transparently with government in
combating these challenges, and thereby assure a growing, strong , vibrant efficient,
inclusive, secure and healthy economy. All hands must be on deck in collaboration,
as we work hard and without prejudice to achieve the Nigeria of our dreams.
We have no other nation that we can call our own.

Asue Ighodalo
Chairman, Board of Directors, NESG

‘Laoye Jaiyeola
CEO, NESG

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